By Adam Bunch
THE CREW-CUTS’ SMASH HIT
The Crew-Cuts were rock-and-roll pioneers. However, the group’s beginnings weren’t very rock and roll at all: the band was formed at a choir school. The four vocalists who made up the group all attended St. Michael’s Choir School in downtown Toronto (the same Catholic music school that spawned fellow Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees The Four Lads), and after they graduated, they all worked as bureaucrats for the government of Ontario. They mostly played small clubs around Niagara Falls, and their first single didn’t do much at all.
But it was while they were at a gig in the frigid snows of Sudbury that they finally caught their big break. They were invited to play on a radio station in Cleveland, driving hundreds of kilometres through -40° weather to get there. But it was worth it. The radio DJ got them an audition with Mercury Records and they impressed the label enough to land a recording contract.
A year later, they released the smash hit that would make them famous. By then, “Sh-Boom” was already a well-known song: the original version by The Chords had climbed into the Top 10 on the Billboard charts just a few months earlier. In fact, it was the very first time an R&B single had crossed over onto the pop charts and climbed that high. But these were the days when covers were commonplace and when record companies were in the habit of taking songs released by black artists and having them re-recorded by white artists. When The Crew-Cuts released their own version of “Sh-Boom” it was an even bigger hit than the original. During this week in 1954, it was sitting at the very top of the Billboard pop chart and it would stay there for seven straight weeks.
The Crew-Cuts were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1984.
“SH-BOOM” BY THE CREW-CUTS
CELEBRATING ANNE MURRAY’S SMALL-TOWN ROOTS
Today, Anne Murray is an international superstar who plays to sold-out crowds in some of the biggest cities in the world. But the story of her incredibly successful career started in the small coal-mining town of Springhill, Nova Scotia. It was there that the Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee was born. It was there that she first learned to love music and to play the piano. And it was there that she caught a bus every Saturday morning to travel an hour away to the tiny village of Tatamagouche to take singing lessons.
Now, more than half a century later, Springhill still celebrates the early beginnings of one of the world’s most popular singers. It was during this week in 1989 that the Anne Murray Centre first opened its doors and it’s still going strong 25 years later. The not-for-profit organization tells the story of the artist’s career and how it all started in that small Nova Scotian community, while attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to Anne Murray’s hometown.
“SNOW BIRD” BY ANNE MURRAY
By Adam Bunch
THE VERY BEGINNING OF NEIL YOUNG’S RECORDING CAREER
In 1963, Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Neil Young was only 17 years old. He had been born in Toronto, spent some time in the sleepy Ontario town of Omemee and went to high school in the suburb of Pickering. But when his parents broke up, he moved with his mother to Winnipeg, and that’s where his passion for music really took off.
These were the early years of the 1960s: the golden age of rock ’n’ roll. So the young Young grew up listening to jukebox legends such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard. It wasn’t long before he started playing music himself. As a teenager in Winnipeg, Young joined a few different bands. The one we remember best was called The Squires.
That’s because The Squires was the very first band that Neil Young ever recorded with. It was during this week in the summer of 1963 that Young and his bandmates walked into the studio of a local Winnipeg radio station, CKRC. That day, they recorded two songs – “The Sultan” and “Aurora” – with one of the station’s DJs serving as the producer. V Records released the tunes as a single, with only 300 copies pressed. Today, only 10 are thought to have survived. It’s one of the rarest 45s in the world and an important piece of history, because that was the day that Neil Young’s recording career officially began.
“THE SULTAN” BY THE SQUIRES
ROGER WATERS AND HALL OF FAMERS CELEBRATE THE FALL OF THE WALL
He said he would never perform “The Wall” again. This was in the early 1980s. Roger Waters was done with Pink Floyd, calling the band “a spent force.” It seemed safe to say that the elaborate theatrical live version of the group’s classic anti-fascist album – which was co-produced by Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Bob Ezrin – was a thing of the past. Unless, he added with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, the Berlin Wall came down. Then he’d have to. At the time, the fall of the wall seemed like something that might never happen; the Soviet Union was still very much a superpower. But then, of course, it did.
Just a few months later, Waters arrived in Berlin. He picked a spot that had been part of the no man’s land between the two sections of the city and there, during this week in 1990, he put together one of the biggest rock shows in the history of music.
The concert, which aimed to raise money for the Memorial Fund for Disaster Relief, also included a symbolic tearing down of a temporary wall. It included plenty of guest appearances, too. Three of them were by Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees: Joni Mitchell, Bryan Adams and The Band. They performed to a massive worldwide audience. The show sold a quarter of a million tickets, gave free admission to 100,000 more, was aired on television in 65 different countries, produced a live album and came out on VHS. The days of the Berlin Wall were over. “The Wall” was back.
“GOODBYE BLUE SKY” PERFORMED BY JONI MITCHELL IN BERLIN
By Adam Bunch
THE BIRTH OF SASKATCHEWAN’S FIRST COMMERCIAL RADIO STATION
During this week in 1922, a thunderstorm rolled across the Saskatchewan prairie. Rain pelted the streets of the capital. Lightning flashed overhead. But that didn’t stop Bert Hooper from doing his job. He was sitting in a studio on the fifth floor of the Leader Building in downtown Regina, upstairs from the offices of the Morning Leader newspaper. He’d been hired by the publisher to become one of the Canadian pioneers of a whole new kind of media: radio.
At that point, it had only been about 20 years since Guglielmo Marconi made his famous broadcast across the Atlantic Ocean. There were still only a few radio stations in all of Canada. The government had only just started granting commercial licenses a few months earlier and, for now, Hooper was the first and only employee of the new radio station in Regina. So it was all up to him. During that dark and stormy night in 1922, he launched the very first commercial radio broadcast in the history of Saskatchewan. CKCK was on the air.
A lot has happened in the 92 years since then, and there have been plenty of landmarks: the world’s first complete broadcast of a hockey game, the first live broadcast of a church service anywhere in the British Empire, and the groundbreaking years of the Second World War, when the management of the station was run entirely by women. Eventually, CKCK-FM became an all-music station, under a variety of different formats over the years: top 40 rock, adult contemporary, oldies…. And today, more than a century after Bert Hooper first put them on the air, CKCK is still going strong, now known as JackFM and bringing classic rock to the airwaves of Regina.
THE DEATH OF TWO ISLANDERS
Back in the mid-1900s, Don Messer and His Islanders were one of the most popular bands in all of Canada. They played traditional music to Canadians all across the country, completing more than a dozen national tours, playing on CBC Radio three times a week and eventually ending up with their very own CBC TV show, “Don Messer’s Jubilee.”
The show spent more than a decade as one of the most beloved programs on Canadian television. Guests included Canadian folk and country music legends such as Stompin’ Tom Connors and Catherine McKinnon. In fact, “The Jubilee” was even more popular with Canadians than “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The only program that beat it in the ratings was “Hockey Night in Canada.” When the show was finally cancelled in 1969, there were public protests, petitions and even questions raised in the House of Commons.
This is a sad week in the history of the Islanders. It was on July 16, 1972, that one of the musicians who had been with the group since the very beginning – Charlie Chamberlain – passed away at the age of 61. Four years later, on the very same day, he was joined by another famous Islander, Marg Osburne. She was only 49.
CHARLIE CHAMBERLAIN AND MARG OSBURNE PERFORM “HIGHWAYS ARE HAPPY WAYS”
By Adam Bunch
ANNE MURRAY’S FIRST NO. 1 COUNTRY HIT
The song goes all the way back to 1962. That’s when it was first released as a single by the legendary American country singer George Jones, who was already famous thanks to the songs “White Lightning” and “Tender Years.” The tune was called “She Thinks I Still Care,” and it would end up being the third No. 1 single of Jones’ career. It spent six weeks at the top of the Billboard country chart.
But that was just the beginning. The song has been covered over and over again since it was first released over five decades ago. The Monkees’ Michael Nesmith did one version. James Taylor has made it a frequent part of his live shows. Patty Loveless included it on an album just a few years ago. Elvis Presley made it the B-side to “Moody Blue” back in 1977. Bill Haley and His Comets even recorded a version in Spanish. And Connie Francis changed the title to “He Thinks I Still Care” and saw her recording climb up the charts just a few months after Jones’ did.
But there’s only one other artist who recorded a version of the song that followed Jones’ version all the way to the top of the Billboard charts. In the early 1970s, Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Anne Murray recorded her own version of “He Thinks I Still Care.” She released it on her 1973 album Danny Boy and then as the B-side to “You Won’t See Me,” a cover of The Beatles’ tune. While the A-side would climb all the way up to No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, that B-side had a life of its own. During this week in 1974, Anne Murray’s “He Thinks I Still Care” was sitting at the very top of the Billboard country chart.
“HE THINKS I STILL CARE” BY ANNE MURRAY
GEDDY LEE’S ALL-STAR ANTHEM
If we told you that Geddy Lee, frontman for Canadian Hall of Fame inductees Rush and a huge baseball fan, sang “O Canada” at a baseball all-star game, you might assume it happened in 1991. That, after all, was the year the event was held in his hometown of Toronto, at the brand new SkyDome. But that year the honour actually went to Alannah Myles, while the American anthem was sung by Michael Burgess, star of Les Misérables. So Lee had to wait for his chance. It came three years later, south of the border, at another brand-new stadium: Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. It was during this week in 1994 that Lee stepped out onto the field and sang our national anthem in front of 60,000 baseball fans.
GEDDY LEE SINGS “O CANADA” AT THE ALL-STAR GAME
By Adam Bunch
THE BIRTH OF LILITH FAIR
It all started back in 1996. That’s when Canada’s Sarah McLachlan finally got sick of promoters and radio stations telling her that two female artists could never be played back to back. She responded by organizing a tour in which she shared the stage with Paula Cole. It was a big success. So the next year she decided to make it even bigger: an enormous touring festival featuring nothing but female artists or female-fronted bands.
They called their new festival “Lilith Fair.” It was named after the story of Adam’s first wife, Lilith, who refused to become subservient to him and left him in the Garden of Eden. Lilith Fair kicked off during this week in 1997 and, in its first year, the festival played 35 different cities in Canada and the United States and featured about 70 different acts, including some of the biggest names in music: Sheryl Crow, Tracy Chapman, Jewel, Dido, Juliana Hatfield, Lisa Loeb, Fiona Apple, Emmylou Harris, The Cardigans, Pat Benatar, Suzanne Vega. Best of all: it proved the promoters wrong. Lilith Fair was the most successful music festival in the world that year.
And it was only the beginning. The festival returned the next summer and the summer after that. They even reunited in 2010. And the lineups continued to feature an absolutely breathtaking list of artists: Lauryn Hill, Christina Aguilera, Queen Latifah, Neko Case, Tegan and Sara, Erykah Badu, Sinéad O’Connor, Nelly Furtado, The Dixie Chicks, Aimee Mann… the list goes on and on and on.
While the shows made millions of dollars for the organizers, they also raised money for good causes all over the continent. By the end of its first three years, Lilith Fair had raised $10 million for women’s charities across North America.
“BUILDING A MYSTERY” BY SARAH MCLACHAN AT LILITH FAIR
A BIG WEEK FOR BTO
Back in 1975, this was a big week for the most recent inductees to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame: Bachman-Turner Overdrive. By then, BTO were already well-established stars of the 1970s rock scene. They’d already released three albums and were no strangers to the Top 40. A few of their singles had raced up the Billboard charts, including “Takin’ Care of Business” and “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.”
Now, their fourth full-length studio album, Four Wheel Drive, was on the shelves of record stores around the world. And there was a new single racing up the charts. During this week in 1975, “Hey You” was sitting in the Top 40. It would go down in history as one of BTO’s most popular singles.